The Swastika is a sacred symbol, a symbol of peace, to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. Prior to Nazi Germany it was also a “good luck” symbol in the west.
The image to the left shows Jackie Bouvier (later Jackie Kennedy/Onassis) as a child dressed in a costume which included a swastika. More images of swastikas can be seen at the “reclaim the swastika” site. These include more pre-Nazi western swastikas, such as 1920s Coca Cola lucky key ring. Hindus still use the swastika today. The picture to the right shows a swastika symbol in a modern UK Hindu mandir. The swastika is behind a Murti of Ganesh, and the swastika is associated with Ganesh and good luck.
There have been moves by German politicians to call for a Europe-wide swastika ban. Naturally this has been opposed by Hindus and others. In my opinion there is no justification in calling for a ban on the swastika. The Nazis used the symbol of the eagle and the cross in addition to the swastik, but nobody has called for a ban on these symbols. In fact it is because these symbols are used in other contexts that they are not automatically associated with Nazis.
Whereas I believe that the swastika should be freely used, there has to be some responsibility by those using it in the west. Because of the association with Nazis, I don’t think it would be right, for example, to have a swastika in isolation as a decoration. People seeing this would probably assume Nazi rather than Hindu connections, and be offended. Using the swastika in conjunction with other obviously Hindu symbols should not be a problem, a swastika on Ganesh’s palm for example could not reasonably be mistaken as a Nazi symbol.
There should also be more education as to the real meaning of the swastika, particularly in schools. The next generation should not grow up without knowing that the swastika is a holy symbol to more than a billion people in the world. Eventually, like the eagle and the cross, the swastika will be reclaimed and seen as a positive symbol, with the Nazi usage being an unfortunate event in history.